This letter appeared in The Times, in response to a column by David Aaronovitch:
AFRICA AND THE BARD
Sir, As a writer with black South African heritage schooled in the western canon, I agree with David Aaronovitch (Mar 30) that “decolonising the curriculum” and removing Shakespeare from South African schools is spectacularly misguided. It is also puerile and intellectually pusillanimous.
Alex La Guma, the greatest South African novelist of the 20th century, was so steeped in Shakespeare that the title of his novel A Walk in the Night was taken from Hamlet. Shakespearean language and metre were seminal influences on Cosmo Pieterse and Dennis Brutus, the two foremost black South African poets.
Shakespeare is a timeless, universal writer not because he is white but because he is wise. To see books or knowledge as exclusively white or black is to miss the point: they are first and foremost human. It is patronising, pernicious and racist to suggest that black people cannot relate to white authors, thus denying us our common humanity.